Matt Forney
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Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Failure of Science Fiction

Several months ago, in one of my (usually) ill-fated attempts to understand the tastes of ordinary fuckin’ people, I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I finished it a few weeks ago. I went into it almost totally blind, having never watched any Star Trek TV episodes or movies in my life aside from part of the 2009 reboot (which nearly made me catatonic with its awful action scenes) and Star Trek: First Contact (which gave me nightmares when my parents dragged me to it as a kid). I have vague memories of Next Generation and Voyager episodes from when I was a kid, but that’s it.

I must have been born without the basement dweller gene, because I’ve never had any interest in science fiction or fantasy.

I’ve played sci-fi themed video games like Halo and Deus Ex, but that’s it. When it comes to sci-fi, the only writer I’ll tolerate is Philip K. Dick and movies based off his works (Blade Runner, Total Recall etc.). Every time I’ve attempted to read Heinlein, Herbert, Asimov, Farmer or any of the other “great” sci-fi writers, my eyes glaze over and my brain tunes out. The character development is weak, the plots are hackneyed, and when you strip away the sci-fi element, there’s pretty much nothing left of the book. I assume that there are better sci-fi writers out there, but I’m guessing that I’m disqualified from reading them since I’ve actually put my penis inside a woman.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a good TV show, but it’s good in spite of the sci-fi element, not because of it. Much like how George Lucas, that other nerd messiah, had no idea what made the original Star Wars movies good, Gene Roddenberry had no idea what made Star Trek good. It’s a testament to the show’s writers and actors that they managed to make an entertaining show despite all the roadblocks that Roddenberry shoved in their path. And frankly, there’s nothing about Star Trek that justifies all the fanboy idiocy surrounding it.

Revenge (Fantasies) of the Nerds

Star Trek makes a lot more sense when you realize that Gene Roddenberry probably had his face bashed in every day after school when he was a teenager. The Next Generation, particularly in its first two seasons, has a childish “FUCK YOU, DAD!” mentality that only the most emotionally stunted manbabies could take seriously. You can almost imagine Roddenberry hunched over his desk in a Xanadu-like mansion muttering to himself: “Stupid bigoted right-wing fascists, I’ll show THEM!”

Starfleet and the Federation in general are a nerd’s wet dream. There are no jocks or bimbos aboard the Enterprise; every crew member from Captain Picard down to the lowliest ensign is a citizen-philosopher. Their hobbies consist exclusively of high-minded pursuits like staging Shakespeare plays, mastering the violin and playing space chess. Everyone is polite and never gets into fights. Money is obsolete and replicators can provide anything that you need. Starfleet and the Federation themselves are never depicted as anything less than saintly; Roddenberry originally created them as stand-ins for the United Nations. You can see why this vision of the future would appeal to a certain type of social misfit.

If you want a vision of the nerd future, imagine being forced to listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine” on a infinite loop forever.

Nerds cling to a bizarre mix of Nietzschean slave morality (believing that their oppression at the hands of the evil jocks and sluts makes them superior) and a childlike, Christian-esque faith that their enemies will get “what’s coming to them.” It’s a fantasy: the reality is that with few exceptions, the “popular kids” in high school end up becoming the most successful adults while losers stay losers. Most nerds, rather than develop the skills they need to turn their lives around, would rather retreat into self-pleasuring fantasy worlds in which their lack of charisma and peculiar obsessions are assets rather than liabilities. Trek fandom is basically a poor man’s narcissism.

Not only that, The Next Generation’s vision of the future shows just how shallow and unimaginative Roddenberry was. To be frank, this is a problem that leftists have in general, but Star Trek places their myopia front and center. Any honest student of history will see that humans haven’t really advanced at all; we may have cleaner streets and better technology, but deep down, we’re still the same hairless apes that were stabbing and raping each other in the Stone Age. The idea that the next 300 years are going to fundamentally alter a human nature that hasn’t changed in the past few millennia is ludicrous. Also, I can guarantee you that if we were to somehow develop replicator technology, our overlords would either find a way to use it to solidify their control, or people would just find another excuse to rob and kill each other.

Not to mention that like all Marxists, Gene Roddenberry was a revolting hypocrite, as shown by how he swindled Alexander Courage out of royalties for the theme music to the original Star Trek.

To the show’s credit, The Next Generation started criticizing Roddenberry’s ideas in later seasons with episodes like “Journey’s End” and “Preemptive Strike.” Also, Davis Aurini recommended that I watch Deep Space Nine afterwards, which basically takes a sledgehammer to Star Trek’s techno-communist ideology, on top of being just a plain better show. Ultimately though, I agree with William Shatner: you Trekkies need to get a life.

Prime Stupidity

No single element of Star Trek illustrates Gene Roddenberry’s infinitely limited mind better than the Prime Directive. You see, “Starfleet is not a military organization” (despite the fact that they fly around in heavily armed starships and have a commission-based chain of command), they’re a peacekeeping organization. And the highest principle of Starfleet is not interfering in the affairs of other peoples. It’s not defending Federation citizens from threats, nor is it protecting the innocent and needy, it’s non-interference.

Only the most retarded of nerds could possibly think that the Prime Directive is a good idea.

Inflexible rules based on half-absorbed principles are the hallmark of an autistic mind. Any country or entity that adopted a policy like the Prime Directive would get invaded, destroyed, and/or exploited by its enemies in record time. Indeed, the first season of The Next Generation shows precisely why the Prime Directive is stupid; it leads to the Enterprise getting tooled by every civilization they encounter. Whether it’s Tasha Yar getting kidnapped by African tribals in “Code of Honor,” Wesley Crusher being sentenced to death for trampling a flower bed in “Justice,” or Riker being forced to humiliate himself to appease the Amazonians in “Angel One,” all the Prime Directive seems to accomplish is turning simple problems into big ones. (As an aside, the scene in “Angel One” where Riker gets “seduced” by the Amazonians’ leader ranks as one of the most cringeworthy things ever recorded on film.)

This all would bother me less if The Next Generation didn’t contradict the reasoning behind the Prime Directive in the very first season. In the season finale “The Neutral Zone,” the Enterprise thaws out a group of cryogenically frozen humans from centuries in the past, before replicator technology was developed and people were still the same venal bastards they are today. One of them later uses the ship’s comm system to pester Picard, and when he chastises the guy, he asks why the Enterprise doesn’t have a lock on the communicators. Picard’s response is that humans of his era have enough self-control to not whale on the comm system every time they get a boo-boo.

So basically, if humans have that much self-control in the future, why is the Prime Directive even necessary? You’re telling me that in this supposedly enlightened galaxy, Starfleet captains can’t be trusted to not incinerate every pre-atomic civilization that annoys them? A reasonable policy would allow individuals to handle alien contact on a case-by-case basis, not impose some idiotic, inflexible law that leads to Starfleet personnel being abused by the aliens that the Prime Directive is supposedly protecting.

Again, I’ll give credit to the later seasons of The Next Generation, as they cleverly criticize the Prime Directive (see: “Who Watches the Watchers?” and “Homeward“). But even still, this is yet another example of Star Trek succeeding in spite of Roddenberry, not because of him. Imagine if George Lucas had died in the early nineties like Roddenberry did; the Star Wars prequels might have actually been good.

Politics vs. Plot

The Next Generation is a prime example of what happens when politics are prioritized over storytelling. While Rick Berman and his crew did a stellar job of cleaning up the pile of turds that Roddenberry shat out for them, it’s still obvious that the show was developed not to be entertaining but to induce warm, politically correct fuzzies in its creator. Beyond Roddenberry’s ridiculous prohibition on conflict between the main characters (that was thankfully relaxed when Berman took over), half the characters themselves have no reason to exist aside from filling quotas.

Take Geordi La Forge. He serves virtually no purpose in the first season aside from checking off the ethnic diversity and cripple sections of the PC quota: “Oooh, a blind black man!” Deanna Troi was similarly tossed in to appeal to the touchy-feely, New Age female demographic, with Marina Sirtis’ cleavage a nice two-fer to rope in the virginal Trekkies. Tasha Yar was inserted to appeal to closeted lesbians. Beverly Crusher was made into a single mother to attract the slut demographic. Don’t get me started on Wesley.

The Trekkies, idiots that they are, don’t realize that it was the tyrannical fist of their idol Roddenberry that made the first season (and about half of the second season) of The Next Generation unwatchable. Wil Wheaton may whine about the “racism” of “Code of Honor” or the “misogyny” of “Angel One,” but the real reason these episodes are bad is because Roddenberry’s guidelines made character development impossible. Characters are what make for good stories: their growth and development, their interactions and conflicts with others, their flaws and virtues. By depicting the Enterprise’s crew as morally superior ÜbermenschenThe Next Generation became a left-wing version of Atlas Shrugged.

The only thing left for the writers to do was Alien Encounter of the Week, with “aliens” that all looked like humans with sandpaper glued to their foreheads.

The best episodes of The Next Generation are the ones that minimize the sci-fi elements completely or otherwise use them as a MacGuffin to develop the characters. Take “Galaxy’s Child,” where Geordi La Forge is forced to reconcile the real Dr. Leah Brahms with the fantasy he created. Or “Frame of Mind,” where Riker’s grip on reality is shaken as he deals with life inside an insane asylum. “The First Duty,” where Wesley Crusher is torn between his oath to Starfleet and his loyalty to his friends. “The Perfect Mate,” where Picard is seduced by a woman with impeccable feminine charms. Even the show’s most popular action-oriented episodes follow this principle. The central conflict of “The Best of Both Worlds,” for example, isn’t Picard’s assimilation by the Borg, it’s about Riker coming to terms with his lack of ambition and dealing with responsibility that has been thrust on him.

Any story that doesn’t place character development first and foremost is a bad story, regardless of genre.

Overall, I’d say that despite the infantile philosophy guiding it, Star Trek: The Next Generation is worth watching, or at least its later seasons are. Again, I don’t know much about the other Star Trek shows/movies, and I dislike sci-fi as a rule, but there you go.

Click here to buy Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Complete Series.

Read Next: Matt Forney’s Podcast Extravaganza, Episode 27: Where No Man Has Gone Before